Riders 54 - Esks 31
Did not see that coming!
Heading into Friday's match-up in Edmonton, a lot people (myself included) were in "prove it" mode with the Riders. Prove you can play on the road. Prove you can compete in the West. Prove the win over BC wasn't a one off. Well the Riders came out and emphatically proved all of the above with a dismantling of the Eskimos. The final score greatly flatters the Esks as they were down 40-7 heading into a 4th quarter that amounted to extended garbage time. I don't know where these Riders came from or where we have been hiding them all season but I love it!
The team did so many of the fundamental things right that had been missing in previous road games. Three things in particular really caught my eye.
1 - We dominated the trenches - Offensively we gave Glenn time in the pocket and allowed him to run the offense instead of running for his life... well ok to be fair Glenn wouldn't actually run for his life, more like slowly jog. Defensively we made life hell for Reilly. We got consistent pressure and really disrupted the pass game. While I would never wish injury on anyone, Dan Clark getting injured may be the best thing to happen to us. Labatte has solidified the middle of that line immensely. Its an odd combo along the O-line but I would roll with it as long as they play like this. Defensively "I'm Nick James Bitch!" is looking like a great add. Steele played one of his best games as a Rider. Antigha continues to be solid. Low and behold when we get even the slightest bump in play from the rest of the line it really frees up Jefferson.
2 - We played aggressive - Previous road games saw us essentially nap through the first half and let the other team dictate the pace of play. Friday we were the aggressors. Defense was hitting and hitting like they meant it.
3 - We seized every opportunity - In the first 6 games, we had many opportunities we let slip away. Friday we seized every one of them. Botched snap on a Reilly plunge? - recover the fumble and put it in the end zone 5 plays later. Edmonton stupidly decides to not block literally the only guy they should probably should? Blocked kick, defensive score. Missed PAT? Duron does Duron things and steals back any momentum Edmonton may have gained by returning it for 2. Think Marshall will be stopped at the 5? He takes flights and helicopters in for an amazing score. Every time we had a chance to make a play, we did. Hell we had 2 picks sixes in a 3 minute span (old man Jovon's looked like slow mo compared to Rodgers but at the important thing is that we made the plays).
As hard as it was to put much stock in one home win over BC, its equally as tough to ignore 2 dominant wins over west teams. The offense has learned to produce on the road. The defense has made more plays in the past 2 weeks than the previous year and half combined under Chris Jones. I said a few weeks back that we needed to go a minimum of 3-2 in our 5 game west set and we have put ourselves in a position were all we need is a split with Winnipeg to accomplish that and be a very relevant part of the playoff race down the back half of the season.
We now carry the momentum from 2 dominant wins into Labour Day. Man oh man will Mosaic be rockin'! Start warming up your vocal chords.
Other random thoughts:
- I still have no clue how Vernon Adams fell through that crack and converted that 3rd down plunge. You'll also be shocked to know that I hated everything about the 2 plays he randomly ran early in the game. McAdoo gonna McAdoo.
- I really liked how the offense worked the middle of the field with the passes to Bagg. They clearly found a weakness in that D (an obvious place to attack with Edmonton's 8th string LBs out there). I also like that we gave Marshall double digit touches.
- I wonder what was going through Hugh O'Neil's head has he was being pursued by all 300 pounds of Nick James on that blocked punt? "Just take the damn ball! Please don't fall on me!"
- I was super mad at Demski for that awful attempt at fielding the kick return but I feel that the hit he took on that is punishment enough.